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Euro debt jitters drag market into the red

THE Australian sharemarket ended a third straight trading session in the red after extending earlier losses in the day on fresh concerns about European sovereign debt.

THE Australian sharemarket ended a third straight trading session in the red after extending earlier losses in the day on fresh concerns about European sovereign debt.

The benchmark

S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 66.4 points 1.6 per cent

to close at 4075.5.

The market opened lower on a weak lead from European stocks as investors were concerned about euro zone debt and the risk of a new recession in leading economies.

City Index senior dealer Jian Wei said market sentiment was weak, with investors reeling from disappointing US jobs data on Friday and the euro zone debt crisis.

"Traders are betting the governments or central banks have to take more action to save the . . . crisis on financial markets.

"You can see the sentiment is still flowing to low-risk, better stocks."

IG Markets analyst Ben Potter said afternoon trade was fairly neutral after the Reserve Bank of Australia announced it would leave interest rates steady as expected.

"It's a wait-and-see approach," he said.

"President Obama is due out tomorrow night to talk about his jobs plan, but I don't hold much hope for that either. It's a pretty tough environment at the moment.

"Unfortunately [the local market] really is being driven by stuff outside of Australia."

Making news in local trade, Rio Tinto shares were down $1.38, or 1.98 per cent, to $68.41 after it announced it would sell its 57.7 per cent stake in South African-based copper producer Palabora Mining because it was no longer of sufficient scale for the parent company.

Fellow miner BHP Billiton was down 82?, or 2.2 per cent, at $36.88.

Telecommunications project manager Transfield Services was down 2? at $2.26 after it was awarded a $133 million contract to help build the national broadband network.

The major banks were lower, with National Australia Bank closing down 2.77 per cent, or 63?, at $22.14.

Westpac lost 48? to $19.50, Commonwealth Bank fell 41? to $45.98 and ANZ shed 15? to $19.26.

Seven West Media was the worst-performing stock, closing down 5.1 per cent, or 16?, at $3.02 after going ex-dividend.

The price of gold in Sydney hit a record high of $US1920.44, but fell to $US1906.63 per fine ounce at the close, up $US20.63 on Monday's local close of $US1886.00.

National turnover was 2.13 billion shares changing hands for $5.56 billion. There were 265 stocks up, 780 down and 311 unchanged.


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